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Comfortech 2016 – Attendees learn to embrace change, mindset of technology

Oct. 26, 2016
I want to thank Mike Agugliaro, Steve Coscia, and all session speakers for participating in the conference. And I want to thank the individuals that were on the recruiting panel. We had great conversations during this session.    I want to personally thank Weldon Longfor giving the Thursday keynote.
The recruiting panel.

PHILADELPHIA — Comfortech 2016, held here in Philadelphia, Sept. 20-22, had many memorable moments. First of all, Comfortech was different than any we’ve hosted before — we focused on topics, such as Internet of Things, Building Information Modeling, Smart buildings, the Smart/Connected home market and Smart tools. We had an exciting Executive Symposium in which we discussed these cutting-edge technologies. Plus, there was a new technical education program, covering both residential and light commercial service and installation markets.

Comfortech 2016 continued to offer sales, marketing, and business sessions, plus we added a recruiting session to the mix since this is an issue the industry needs to face directly and decide what steps are needed to change the public’s mindset about working in the trades, and what are the best ways to recruit talented individuals into the industry.

I want to thank Mike Agugliaro, Steve Coscia, and all session speakers for participating in the conference. And I want to thank the individuals that were on the recruiting panel. We had great conversations during this session. It was one of the best recruiting sessions presented, a Comfortech attendee told me.  

I want to personally thank Weldon Long, a successful entrepreneur, sales expert and author of the NY Times bestseller, “The Power of Consistency — Prosperity Mindset Training for Sales and Business Professionals,” for giving the Thursday keynote. Long’s personal story is inspirational — in 2003, he walked out of a homeless shelter and built an Inc 5000 company with over $20,000,000 in sales in just 60 months. In 2009, his company was selected as one of Inc. Magazines Fastest Growing Private Companies in America.

As an industry we need to embrace the mindset of technology,

—Weldon Long

Long began his keynote saying, “Times are changing — things are technology based. As an industry we need to embrace the mindset of technology. You need to pay attention to the change. In this industry you get paid for what you know. You need to listen — listen to homeowners and understand they want technology.”

Weldon Long.

Change being the cornerstone of Long’s keynote, he then shared his personal story about changing his life for the better.

Long’s story of change began June 10, 1996 — while in jail he received news that his father died. This event was life altering for him. After contemplating what led him down a path of crime, he had some realizations (you will have to read “The Upside of Fear” to find out the details), and came up with the four steps that would turn his life around. (These same steps can be applied to running a business.)

“All the components in your life are in your head — your basic beliefs and expectations are in a box in your head,” explained Long. “You need to think about what you think about. What is in your box? You need to change your thinking/expectations — take out the stuff that others have put in your box, the things that hold you back. Pay attention to the little decisions that you make — understand how your subconscious mind works.”

You need to think about what you think about. What is in your box? You need to change your thinking/expectations,

—Weldon Long

Long continued to explain how the conscious and subconscious mind works. “When you drive from work to home sometimes you end up at home without even thinking about the route you took because you have taken this route so many times it is engrained in your mind. This also happens with work and personal life matters, such as how much money you make and how much you weigh — these things are engrained in your head.”

Long explained to Comfortech attendees how the mind works and how to stop self-fulfilling prophecies. You can read more about these topics in Long’s books, “The Upside of Fear” and “The Power of Consistency.” He will have a new book out, “The Invincible Sales Professional,” very soon.  

Mike Agugliaro and his team at Comfortech.

In closing Thursday’s keynote, Long left the audience with the famous and fitting quote by Henry David Thoreau. “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Secret strategies

Mike Agugliaro presented the session Top 5 Secret Strategies for Massive Growth in Your Contracting Business. During this session he discussed how important consistency is when running a business. Agugliaro is co-owner of New Jersey’s largest home services company, Gold Medal Service. In the last 10 years, his business-growing acumen has taken the company from making less than $1 million per year to making more than $28 million a year.  

For me, the most memorial statement Agugliaro said was, “You have to have a mindset to get you on track to where you want to go next. What got you to this point [in your business/career] will not get you to the next point [in your business/career], so you have to decide to do things differently.” Based on this statement, Agugliaro dived into discussing the five secret strategies.

You have to have a mindset to get you on track to where you want to go next. You have to decide to do things differently,

— Mike Agugliaro

Agugliaro said that marketing is key and that you need to know your perfect customer. Leadership, selling and serving customers fall under marketing too.

“Using a big broad marketing stroke is hurting your company,” said Agugliaro. “You need to drill down to the person you are talking to and find out what is the best way to market to them.”

Mike Agugliaro discusses the 3Cs.

When discussing sales, Agugliaro believes that the general thought and concept people have about selling is a dated philosophy.

“It’s about serving customers today,” explained Agugliaro. “Give them solutions, help the person – it’s not just about selling to them. In our industry people need to pay attention to the customers’ behaviors and not just the connections made with the customer. We are going back to one-on-one, let’s get connected, and stay connected and create a relationship. This will make you different than everyone else. When you say let me help you, let me serve you, you will have the winning edge.”

Agugliaro also touched base on the importance of the 3Cs: confidence, consistency and commitment.

“Many people have lost their confidence in business, maybe because of the economy, or based on customer/business relationships,” said Agugliaro. “You need to realize that now is one of the best times ever for business and you need to be confident.”

Regarding consistency, once you know what you need to do, do it all the time.

“Picture yourself in 10 years if you don’t make a change now,” said Agugliaro. “Stay on track. Do the things that make sense.”  

And then you have commitment as the third 3C. “It’s important to be committed to someone else (family, kids, a dog, for example), said Agugliaro. “My commitment is to my son and daughter.”  

A few more takeaways from Agugliaro’s session were:

  • Listen to the smartest people and learn from them.

  • Look for one shift/one change to make, and do it.

  • As a business owner you have one task — build leaders.

  • Don’t call your employees technicians, call them experts.

  • Need to know your customer, know their DNA.

  • Sales is a mindset — make it value based.

Engage employees

Steve Coscia, the customer service industry’s foremost quoted authority on the topics of maximizing revenue, enhancing customer experiences and increasing customer retention, presented the session High Octane Service Management. The session covered disciplines such as setting performance expectations, providing valuable feedback, leading effective meetings and taking corrective action.

“Service managers talk about better engagement during weekly service meetings,” said Coscia. “The manager assumes employees want to hear things. But the No. 1 rule of instructional design is if you want them to hear it, you talk, but if you want them to learn something they talk. In this session we talked about how to engage with employees when they talk to one another, so they have a higher level of awareness.

Candace Roulo moderates the recruiting session.

“We focus on the behaviors that frontline people to have a better customer service experience,” added Coscia. “Everything is about the experience — not what you install. It’s important to make the customer remember you for making them feeling great, not what they installed.”

Recruiting is an art form  

Another one of my favorite sessions was Recruiting to Find Top Talent (I moderated the session). This session is near and dear to me since it’s a topic I have covered many times for CONTRACTOR. It’s an issue that is not going away, and we all must decide how we can entice people to have a career in the trades.

Dave Yates, owner of FW Behler and CONTRACTOR columnist; Renee Joseph, vice president channel sales and marketing operations, Johnson Controls, Inc.; Ed Del Grande, master plumber, Kohler Company; Matthew Prazenka, owner of; and Ruth Ann Davis, past-president, Women in HVACR were panelists.

It is tough to find a person with the attitude for the job and who wants to learn the industry — it’s very challenging,

— Ed Del Grande

“Having the ability to listen to others, share ideas and feel the excitement in the room from those of us in the industry was truly invigorating,” said Joseph. “The dialogue around what we can do to attract people into our industry was the most interesting topic; specifically being able to convey that this is an industry where college degrees are not necessarily needed and despite that the lifetime income potential is equivalent to those with a significant level of education.” 

According to Del Grande, it’s tough to find the best people to fit the job.

“It is tough to find a person with the attitude for the job and who wants to learn the industry — it’s very challenging,” said Del Grande. “It’s been traditionally a male-dominated industry, and now these people are retiring, so we need to figure out how to face this problem. 

“Based on some attendees’ comments I learned a lot of today's younger people are coming into the trade reluctant to work in crawl spaces and dirty areas,” added Del Grande. This is a ‘hands on’ industry, and we should not be ashamed to tell younger people it takes hard work to be successful.”

Topics covered during the panel were recruiting women and other minorities into the industry, and how to diversify your business.

“Recruiting is still more of an art form than a process or science for most businesses,” said Prazenka. “It is very unique to each business with each trying to find something that works for them in an area where they seldom have the time to become proficient as it is always reactionary rather than proactive. Some people place a high importance on assessments while other relies on team interviews to determine matches.

“Recruiting issues are similar for both the small to large, new to established businesses,” added Prazenka. “Those with foresight are looking into tools to develop people rather than an expectation of finding the new employee that is fully capable to fill the role he is hired for.”

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